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During the early years of our national history, abolition was a desire rather than a purpose, and every humane and thinking man, North and South, was an abolitionist. Previous to the meeting of the first Continental Congress, in 1774, many of the colonies had made protests against the further importation of slaves, and at least two of them, Virginia and Massachusetts, had passed resolutions abolishing the traffic. The Quakers, or Society of Friends, had, since 1760, made slave-holding and slave-trading a matter of church discipline. The War for Independence, and the adoption of the Constitution, in 1787, which included the compromise resolution that provided for the continuation of the slave-trade, by permission, until 1808, caused very little change in the sentiment of the people, and all hoped that in some way, not yet imagined, the gradual and peaceful abolition of slavery would be accomplished. In 1777, Vermont, not yet admitted to the Union, formed a State constitution abolishing slavery. Like constitutions were adopted by Massachusetts, including Maine, in 1780, and by New Hampshire in 1783. Gradual abolition was secured by statute in Pennsylvania in 1780, in Rhode Island and Connecticut in 1784, in New York in 1799, and in New Jersey in 1804. Abolition of slavery in the Northwest Territory, north of the Ohio and east of the Mississippi, including the present States of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, and part of Minnesota, was secured by the Ordinance of 1787. In 1807, Congress passed an act for the abolition of the slave-trade on Jan. 1, 1808. Slavery in part of the Louisiana Purchase, including the present States of Iowa, Oregon, Kansas, Nebraska, part of Colorado, and part of Minnesota, was abolished by the Missouri compromise (q. v..), whose validity was rejected by the Supreme Court (see Dred Scott decision); but the provision for abolition was embodied in the constitutions of these States as they were severally admitted. In course of tine gradual abolition took effect in the States which had adopted it by statute, and in 1850 slavery as an institution had practically disappeared from them. Slavery was finally abolished from all the territory of the United States by the Emancipation Proclamation of President Lincoln and the adoption of the Thirteenth Amendment to the national Constitution, in 1863-65. See Constitution of the United States; emancipation proclamations.

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